Flex Pilates, tucked away in the scenic side of the southern suburbs of Steenberg, had us over for a class at their upscale boutique pilates studio. We were welcomed into the small, yet modern and tranquil studio by owner Crystal Naude, where she eased us into the basics of Pilates. Having come all the way from California, Crystal has introduced real Pilates with the use of the reformer, TRX exercises and barre, with her studios located in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Crystal offers group workouts in the various exercises available, in every difficulty level at Flex Pilates. Private sessions are available for booking too, at a slightly higher fee than the group equipment class.
Anyone is welcome to private sessions, but having done the group workout, we’d say the collaborative complaining and breathing was the most motivational part of our Pilates experience. The group equipment classes, which focus on stability, core and flexibility, hold only six students per class, so workouts are hands-on and instructors are easily able to assist you in correcting your form.
We started our group equipment class (on level 1) with breathing and stretching. We then moved onto some mat work. Placing a ball behind our backs and the floor, to keep us just off the floor, we raised our arms ahead and began to replicate a sit up motion. We curled our chests in as we came up and opened our chests with a deep inhale as we came back down. We repeated this movement in a variation of other forms, such as with our legs raised in “table top”, moving upwards and to the side to engage our core even more (if that was possible).
We then moved to the reformer, which is the primary piece of equipment used in all classes at the Flex Pilates studio. The reformer slides on a carriage, using various different levels of resistance in order to make for a comfortable or more intense workout. We placed our heels on the foot bar at the end of the reformer, our backs flat and arms down. Crystal instructed us to press our tail bone downwards in order to ensure we were using our lower abs as we pushed away from the foot bar, using our leg muscles to push against the resistance set on the carriage.
We alternated from heels to toes, to engage our calve muscles. With controlled movements we slowly pushed away from the foot bar and came back down. Each movement had us working our thighs, calves and lower abdomen, which became even more apparent the next day.
Next, we made use of the ropes that are a part of the reformer. We raised our legs straight towards the ceiling and Crystal assisted us in placing the handles at the end of each rope onto our feet. We pulled down, to the sides and all around in a circle, working our thighs and inner thighs. The movements seem easy enough – until you’ve completed more than three reps of course!
Moving away from legs, Crystal placed a box on top of the reformer for us to lie stomach-facing and grab the ropes once again. We began with our arms straight out to the side, so we formed a T formation. Holding onto the ropes, we pulled down to our sides, sliding forward on the reformer. Once again we were pushing against the resistance set on the reformer in order to make use of our own bodies to strengthen our arms.
We then sat up on the box and held the ropes in front of us with our arms straight out. We began to engage in bicep curls, pulling against the resistance. With each movement Crystal reminded us of how to breathe and was always two steps away, ready to assist us in our form.
After we had completed our arm exercises, we began to stretch it all out. We repeated the stretches we started with at the beginning of our class. With a nod to yoga, we breathed in deep and rolled our chins forward, then our backs and let our arms hang forward as we slowly swayed side to side to release all of the tension out of our muscles.
The group equipment exercise isn’t where the fun stops. The TRX training challenges your every muscle by using your bodyweight and gravity as the resistance. The whole body workout is made to strengthen your flexibility, stamina and balance.
The Barre classes are an interesting and different ballet-inspired fusion with pilates. Flex Pilates offers a toning, core strengthening and leg lengthening workout, without you needing to have any previous barre experience. Crystal also offers prenatal and postpartum private sessions for moms. She informed us of how crucial it is for expecting and existing moms alike to keep their core strong and tight before and after having kids.
Once we left the Flex Pilates studio, we felt warm and worked, but didn’t expect the more than slight ab-ache we’d experience the next morning. Muscle pains and all, we’d definitely love to work it all out again at Crystal’s boutique pilates studio.